Political Lobbying Policy

Purpose and Scope:

Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations categorized under federal law, 26 USC 501(c)(3), are generally permitted to “lobby” to some extent, but are absolutely prohibited from engaging in “political activity.” The distinction between these two activities is crucial, but not always simple to make. Lobbying to an extent beyond an “insubstantial” amount is only permitted by organizations that may and do elect to qualify under the 26 USC 501(h) rules, which provides strict financial limits for lobbying expenditures. Violation of the laws and regulations controlling lobbying and political activity can result in any or all of: fines (in the form of excise taxes) against the organization, personal fines against organization managers, and loss of federal tax-exemption recognition.


1) Lobbying
26 USC 4911(d), Influencing legislation

(1) General Rule
Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2), for purposes of this section, the term ”influencing legislation” means

  • (A) any attempt to influence any legislation through an attempt to affect the opinions of the general public or any segment thereof, and
  • (B) any attempt to influence any legislation through communication with any member or employee of a legislative body, or with any government official or employee who may participate in the formulation of the legislation.

(2) Exceptions
For purposes of this section, the term ”influencing legislation”, with respect to an organization, does not include

  • (A) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, study, or research;
  • (B) providing of technical advice or assistance (where such advice would otherwise constitute the influencing of legislation) to a governmental body or to a committee or other subdivision thereof in response to a written request by such body or subdivision, as the case may be;
  • (C) appearances before, or communications to, any legislative body with respect to a possible decision of such body which might affect the existence of the organization, its powers and duties, tax-exempt status, or the deduction of contributions to the organization;
  • (D) communications between the organization and its bona fide members with respect to legislation or proposed legislation of direct interest to the organization and such members, other than communications described in paragraph (3); and
  • (E) any communication with a governmental official or employee, other than –
    • (i) a communication with a member or employee of a legislative body (where such communication would otherwise constitute the influencing of legislation), or
    • (ii) a communication the principal purpose of which is to influence legislation.

(3) Communications with members

  • (A) A communication between an organization and any bona fide member of such organization to directly encourage such member to communicate as provided in paragraph (1)(B) shall be treated as a communication described in paragraph (1)(B).
  • (B) A communication between an organization and any bona fide member of such organization to directly encourage such member to urge persons other than members to communicate as provided in either subparagraph (A) or subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) shall be treated as a communication described in paragraph (1)(A).

2) Legislation
26 USC 4911(e)(2)
The term ”legislation” includes action with respect to Acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items by the Congress, any State legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, or by the public in a referendum, initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.


1) Public Policy Positions:

  • (1) The LSA Board of Trustees shall have sole authority for determining LSA’s position on specific public issues.  No other employee, officer or representative of LSA shall communicate or claim to represent LSA’s position on public policy issues without the prior approval of the Board.
  • (2) All positions taken by LSA on a public policy issue shall be recorded and officially communicated through the use of Board Resolutions.  In the preparation and adoption of Resolutions, LSA shall ensure that the information contained therein is factually accurate and provides sufficient context.

2) Political Activities:

  • (1) All LSA employees and officers may engage in the following activities as private citizens, without direct or indirect support from LSA, and while not also engaging in LSA activities or functions or while representing LSA:
    • (A) Hold membership and office in, attend meetings of, vote in, and otherwise participate in, political parties, clubs, organizations, and conventions;
    • (B) Participate in and manage partisan or nonpartisan political campaigns, including volunteering, writing and making speeches, writing letters, and soliciting voters to support or oppose a candidate;
    • (C) Be a candidate in a nonpartisan election for public office;
    • (D) Contribute to partisan or nonpartisan political campaigns or political parties and request contributions (but not advise, command, coerce, or attempt to coerce such contributions) from others (except not from employees whom they supervise);
    • (E) Participate in voter registration drives; and
    • (F) Assist in providing transportation to the polls.
  • (2) All LSA employees and officers may not engage in the above activities, nor are they allowed to engage in the following activities while engaged in LSA activities or functions or while representing LSA:
    • (A) Be a candidate for public office in a partisan election (including primaries);
    • (B) Use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or a nomination for office, and
    • (C) Directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command or advise any employees, members, participants and officers of LSA to make political contributions, or request such contributions.
  • (3) LSA, as and organization, will not:
    • (A) Participate or intervene in a political campaign on behalf or in opposition to any candidate for public office.  LSA employees and officers should avoid identification of LSA with, or use of its funds or resources for, such activity;
    • (B) LSA funds may not be used to make contributions to political campaigns, political parties, or political action committees;
    • (C) LSA may, under certain conditions conduct limited activities designed to educate, but not influence, voters (such as neutral candidate forums or voter guides) upon prior approval of the Board of Trustees.

3) Restrictions on the Use of LSA Resources and Premises for Political Activities:

  • (1) The name, logo or address of LSA shall not be used for, or in connection with, any partisan political purpose or activity except as is consistent with LSA policies.
  • (2) In correspondence, statements or other material relating to political activities or issues, the title of an LSA representative shall be used only for identification.  If such identification might reasonably be construed as implying the support, endorsement or opposition of LSA to any political activity or issue, the identification shall be accompanied by an explicit statement that the individual is peaking for himself or herself and not as a representative of LSA.
  • (3) LSA equipment, supplies and services shall not be used for, or in connection with, political purposes or activities
  • (4) Political activities shall not occur on LSA premises, or at LSA functions, unless permitted by the Board of Trustees.

4) LSA shall not advocate a particular position on a ballot measure, or urge anyone to vote in a particular manner, unless it is to state the position of the Board of Trustees’ position on a ballot measure.

Approved by the Law and Society Association Board of Trustees on May 28, 2014


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